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Letter: Debenhams – Should We Abandon Compromise?

Published on: 20 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 20 Jan, 2022

Illustrative view showing St Mary’s Church in Quarry Street seen between the proposed buildings from across the River Wey.

From: Bob Benjafield

In response to: Proposed Debenhams Replacement Would Not Be an Improvement

There is a somewhat familiar feeling about how the debate over the Debenhams-site development site is going. Shades of the station development.

It’s funny how sympathetic the Debenhams proposals felt until the developers actually showed us something that indicated the height and mass, and the lip service towards the public spaces of the site.

Of course, they are in it for the money. That is their natural ambition. Details like sympathetic use of brickwork, or something barely noticeable such as an echo towards St Mary’s Church’s existence through a slit between two blinking great blocks of flats.

Come on, fellas, isn’t time to abandon the language of compromise? If the town wants the return of its riverside at the foot of the High Street, then it must find a way to take back a realistically large percentage of what was sold to the highest bidder 60 years ago with the blessing of our short-sighted planners.

How can this achieved? Let a developer build there. But not a mere nine storeys. A dozen or more. But a single slim building of radical style by a real architect like the late Richard Rogers. As we all recognise from looking around our town centre, so much of the so-called architecture of the past half-century is truly mediocre. Time for something with a little flair.

See also: Town Split Over St Mary’s Wharf As Historic England Accuses Developer of “Flawed” Conclusions

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